“The people are the place” 

I want to commend Street Spirit staff and contributors for once again reminding us all of the importance in challenging dominant narratives of space, property, and territory. With the Ashby/Shellmound community mapping project, we see that what many I-80 commuters might consider a blank interstice is in fact a rich communal space punctuated with the contours of individual narratives. 

This project takes on special importance considering how cartography has historically and violently been employed by colonizers and imperialists to fabricate property rights and minimize the claims of oppressed people. 

Let’s not forget that Caltrans, the City of Emeryville, and the condominium developer have also mapped their own narratives onto to the Ashby/Shellmound area. For these entities, this land is merely capital, a cog in the churn and burn of the urban growth machine. Its value is profit and control. The stories so eloquently and urgently expressed in the March issue of Street Spirit is exactly what we need to challenge that old notion and create a system of land rights that works for our un-housed and under-resourced neighbors. 

—Spider R., Los Angeles 

“March maps” 

I loved the way artists rendered their former home in the Ashby/ Shellmound encampment through their mental maps of the people and memories that were meaningful to them. Seen together, their personal geographies captured the spirit of the place in a way that Google Maps could never. One of the things that reading Street Spirit over the years has reinforced is how home can be defined best not by physical structures or leases or land deeds, but by community. These maps act as another reminder of how true that is. 

—Sarah H., San Francisco 

Cutting plans for a hotel at 2801 Adeline would be a step in the right direction 

As a resident of South Berkeley, I was disturbed in spring 2020 when I received a postcard in the mail about a pair of development projects in my neighborhood near Berkeley Bowl. The plan was to knock down our pharmacy and a family-owned hardware store… to build a hotel, of all things. As if, in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis where more and more people are pushed out of the Bay Area or into the street, what Berkeley really needs is more hotel rooms. 

Yes, I’ve heard that we are low on hotel rooms—and sure, with Airbnb in the mix, hotel rooms can take some indirect pressure off housing. But considering the severity of the situation and how hard it is to get new developments off the ground in Berkeley, we need to pick our battles. As the housing crisis rages worse than ever around us, building more housing is essential. If we’re going to disrupt one of the last fully walkable neighborhoods in the area (a grocery store, hardware store, café, bar, pharmacy, taqueria, all in a few blocks? Unprecedented), we should do it for the right reasons. 

I was therefore glad to hear recently that during the pandemic the developers behind the projects came to their senses. They filed a new project plan adding more units to their design, promising at least 40% will be affordable, and hitting “pause” on the hotel aspect. My hope is this “pause” turns permanent. 

—Alissa G., Berkeley 

Ohlone history in March paper

I’d like to compliment you on your unique & remarkable March issue. The fact that the whole issue was dedicated to the Shellmound/Ashby encampment was unusual for Street Spirit and made it come alive in a way that a single article couldn’t have done. The history of the Ohlone people, themselves a marginalized group, leant a poignancy to the fragile security of those

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